A Look Around The Country: 2015 College Football Preview

It is almost time for another season of college football, one in which the Buckeyes can repeat as National Champions for the first time in program history. Last season we saw the inaugural college football playoff dominated by Urban Meyer and Ohio State. Who are this season’s top contenders? Who looks to hoist the Heisman Trophy in December? What will be the year’s biggest and most hyped games? Find out all of that and more in my College Football Preview for the 2015 season.

Biggest Games

TCU at Minnesota, September 3: The Horned Frogs and Golden Gophers will kick off the college football season in Minneapolis with both teams trying to take the next step. TCU is looking to make the playoff after just missing the cut last season while Minnesota looks to make its first Big Ten Championship from a wide open Big Ten West Division. It all kicks off Thursday night.

Wisconsin vs Alabama, September 5: Can a Big Ten beat Alabama for the second consecutive game? This year’s Cowboy’s Classic should be a great game early but I see the Tide pulling away in the second half. Nick Saban gets his team back on track towards another potential playoff berth.

Oregon at Michigan State, September 12: A rematch of last season’s game in Eugene, Connor Cook and the Spartans look to avenge their loss and get back on track towards national supremacy. The Ducks will begin the post Marcus Mariota era with most likely Jeff Lockie at quarterback. Look for the winner to be an early favorite to make the playoff.

Notre Dame at Clemson, October 3: It is always fun to see Clemson play a home night game but this will be even better with the Irish coming to town. Brian Kelly has his work cut out for him after underachieving every year since their 2012 Title Game berth and without Everett Golson after he transferred to Florida State. Expect to see two programs who will either take one step forward or two steps backwards.

Georgia at Auburn, November 14: We will get an SEC Championship game preview a few weeks before their big bout in the Georgia Dome. I see both of these teams being highly ranked headed into this one but it is always interesting when there is a rematch. Auburn doesn’t have it easy because they have the Tide 2 weeks later.

Michigan State at Ohio State, November 21: What has become the staple Big Ten Game of the year will not be any different in 2015. Mark Dantonio and his Spartans head to the Horseshoe for the first time since 2011 in a de-facto Big Ten East Championship Game. Ohio State will be tested but won’t have much rest as they have to travel to Ann Arbor the following week.

USC at Oregon, November 21: Oregon has had Southern Cal’s number the past 5 years or so but the pendulum is starting to swing back into the Trojans favor. Oregon will take a step back this season and the nation will see why USC will be a Playoff favorite in 2015 and beyond.

Baylor at TCU, November 27: This is the regular season game of the year in my eyes and will be a great rematch after last year’s stunner. Trevone Boykin might solidify his Heisman campaign in this game. Maybe the Big 12 will finally find their One True Champion.

Ohio State at Michigan, November 28: Urban Meyer vs Jim Harbaugh I. This game will have plenty of similarities to the 1969 Ohio State-Michigan game but I expect Wolverine fan expectations to be a lot more grounded the day of this game compared to how high they are right now (ask a Michigan fan how many titles Harbaugh will bring Ann Arbor- they will respond by saying 3 playoff trophies in 2015 alone). It will be another classic addition to The Game.

Alabama at Auburn, November 28: “There goes Davis!!” The last time these two teams met at Jordan-Hare, Chris Davis took a missed field goal all the way back for a touchdown in the final second which sent the Tigers to the Title Game (which they lost) and the Crimson Tide to the Sugar Bowl (which they lost). Winner of this game is most likely playing in Atlanta a week later.

Heisman Watch

Trevone Boykin, TCU: My favorite to bring home the Heisman in 2015 should have a monster year statistically (thanks Big 12 defense) and will gain bonus points by getting his team to the College Football Playoff.

Ezekiel Elliot, Ohio State: The best running back in the country is coming off a huge 3 game stretch last season and will be looked at as a leader in Meyer’s offense. The only reason I don’t have him as my favorite is because of the amount of carries, offense, and media attention the 3 quarterbacks will get.

Braxton Miller/J.T. Barrett/Cardale Jones: The winner of the greatest quarterback derby in college football history will definitely be a front runner for the Heisman. Why do I not have them as my number one selection? See above.

Cody Kessler, USC: The Trojans might still be a year away from seriously contending for a national title but I do think they come close because of Kessler. And with the talent he will have at his disposal, he could be setting up for a great year.

Leonard Fournette, LSU: There is a reason this LSU running back struck the Heisman pose his freshman year. Nick Chubb of Georgia will be the SEC running back talked about the most but by season’s end I expect Fournette to receive all the headlines and first team All-SEC.

Connor Cook, Michigan State: This is definitely the year of the quarterback for the Big Ten but I am choosing to highlight Cook over the likes of Christian Hackenberg for a number of reasons but none more so than leadership. If Cook can somehow get the Spartans to the Playoff, he will likely be invited to New York.

Dak Prescott, Miss. State: After exceeding everyone’s expectations in 2014, Prescott will look to build on that this season. I think Dan Mullen has pushed him and the Bulldogs into the right direction. But if they are in the SEC title hunt by November, it will be because of Dak.

Conference Predictions

ACC: Clemson over Georgia Tech

Teams to Watch: Florida State, Virginia Tech

I really wanted to take Georgia Tech here, but I think Dabo Swinney has done great things in Death Valley and have to stick with the Tigers. Many people are taking Florida State to win a 4th straight ACC Title but I see them struggling with the quarterback position. Then I have Virginia Tech turning some heads this season, so the Buckeyes better be ready on Labor Day night.

Big Ten: Ohio State over Minnesota

Teams to Watch: Wisconsin, Michigan State, Penn State

Ohio State is a gimme at this point with their only real competition being the Spartans. But I have Minnesota getting to Indianapolis after a late season win over Wisconsin. Jerry Kill has been great for the Gophers and this year’s team finally gets him over the hump. Wisconsin will take a step back under new coach, Paul Chryst. Penn State could also make some noise behind stellar play from Hackenberg.

Big 12: TCU as champions, Baylor as runners-up

Teams to Watch: Oklahoma, Texas, Oklahoma State

This will be another year of no conference championship game for the Big 12, which means another year at being at a disadvantage. I see this coming down to TCU and Baylor but the Bears are breaking in a new quarterback where the Horned Frogs are not. That will be the difference. Bob Stoops needs to get the Sooners into playoff contention or he will be shown the door and Charlie Strong could have a much better year after having his system in place for a second season.

Pac 12: USC over Oregon

Teams to Watch: Stanford, UCLA, Arizona, Arizona State

The reign of Oregon will finally come to an end in 2015 as the Trojans get back to their rightful place atop the Pac 12 throne. Oregon has a great team coming back and maybe the Trojans are still a year away but I believe USC gets it done this season. This is the most wide open conference because of the teams listed above. I could see any of those six winning the conference. It’s going to be a Wild Wild West.

SEC: Auburn over Georgia

Teams to Watch: Alabama, Tennessee, LSU

I have Auburn winning the coveted SEC Title this season because of a loaded cast on both sides of the ball. Bringing in Will Muschamp as defensive coordinator will help. Georgia will have another great team but Mark Richt has grossly underachieved for the Bulldogs and he’ll come up short again. I think Alabama’s reign has come to an end and it will be interesting to see how this affects Nick Saban heading into the future. Les Miles and LSU are my dark horse team for the SEC as long as Fournette has a great season. Tennessee could also make some noise.

Top 25

1. Ohio State
2. TCU
3. Auburn
4. USC
5. Michigan State
6. Clemson
7. Baylor
8. Alabama
9. Oregon
10. Notre Dame
11. Florida State
12. Georgia
13. Georgia Tech
14. LSU
15. UCLA
16. Ole Miss
17. Minnesota
18. Arizona State
19. Oklahoma
20. Wisconsin
21. Stanford
22. Tennessee
23. Boise State
24. Arkansas
25. Penn State

Playoff Predictions

Semifinals

1) Ohio State over 4) USC
2) TCU over 3) Auburn

National Championship Game

Ohio State over TCU

Comments

  1. Fred Martinelli says

    Nate, Excellent article. Keep a dossier of your writings for presentation to Athletic Directors seeking SID’s. Don’t hesitate to contact Division I institutions.

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